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Searching as strategic exploration: towards an embodied information literacy

As instruction librarians, we know that the iterative, sometimes nonlinear, search process is an expert searcher’s ability; it comes only with practice and through experience. Yet novice researchers – undergraduate students – may not yet have had this experience and practice. Consider how students could embody information literacy. Students embark on metaphorical journeys in the search for more, and better, information on a topic. In the search process, students circle back to their keywords, explore new disciplinary frontiers, cross thresholds, and reiterate their search strategies to become ever more confident and competent in a new domain of knowledge. Walking, journey, and travel metaphors can be found everywhere in higher education. CUNY’s general education framework is called Pathways. We speak of the pursuit of knowledge, of a student’s path to graduation, and of degree mapping.

What if we put metaphors aside and documented (mapped) the progress of searching as strategic exploration? Consider students’ lived experience. They all bring with them embodied knowledge that is located more in the realm of intuition and insight. What if we helped students discover their embodied knowledge through reflecting on this iterative process of searching? In your next one-shot, consider asking them to uncover knowledge they already possess by posing one-minute paper prompts such as, “What was your a-ha moment (or challenging moment) in today’s class, and why?” or “How can you apply what you learned in future research?” This generates a map or milestone in the student’s journey to information literacy.

While I have found that a reflective and creative approach to the frame searching as strategic exploration valuable in my information literacy and library instruction work, I recognize that it is not the only frame. It was not even the frame that initially resonated with me. I’ve come to realize that there is great value in doing a deep dive, or taking a long walk, with one frame. Whatever frame you choose, make friends with it. Consider yourself in a long-term (though perhaps not exclusive) relationship with it. You just may find yourself drawing on your deep knowledge and familiarity with that frame extemporaneously, particularly in those instruction sessions that do not go according to the lesson plan.

Thoughts on reflection prompts and questions you’ve tried, or would like to? Leave a comment below!

A few suggestions for further reading:

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), 9 Feb. 2015.

Kerka, Sandra. “Somatic/Embodied Learning and Adult Education.” Trends and Issues Alert. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 2002.

Spatz, Ben. “Embodied Research: A Methodology.” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, vol. 13, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1–31.

1 Comment

  1. I liked this piece Anne! I have tried to do some of this in a class I taught a couple of semesters ago.

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